Several Roman Catholic Church leaders gathered for ceremonies to honor a Jewish author’s friendship with the late Pope John Paul II and her ability to touch other’s lives.
Lena Allen-Shore, of Philadelphia, an adjunct professor at Gratz College, began a close acquaintance with the pope when he responded to a letter she wrote in 1979, weeks after his election as the first Polish pope. They met several times, and she wrote “Building Bridges,” about their childhoods outside Krakow, Poland, and their different paths, which did not cross until old age.
“She entered and survived the Holocaust,” Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore told a gathering at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C., marking the release of the third edition of “Building Bridges.” Keeler recalled how Allen-Shore masqueraded as a Catholic in her native Poland during World War II, vowing to devote herself to “building bridges” if she survived.
Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the papal representative to the United States, described John Paul’s account of childhood in Poland. “He said that when he was 15, he saw a great number of his Jewish friends disappearing” at the hands of the Nazis, “and he said, ‘I could do nothing. But now I can do something,’” Sambi said.
The new edition of “Building Bridges” includes a note John Paul wrote when the first edition was published, saying, “Thank you for seeing deep into my thoughts and understanding the intentions guiding my actions,” and praising Allen-Shore for writing “with heart.”